Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Check me out!

I am featured over on Goat Notes Blog today! I wrote a guest post about making your own natural cleaning products as part of Julia's new 'lost arts' column! Pop on over and have a peek (the recipes I included will make AWESOME Christmas gifts!) and make sure to check out the other wonderful posts Julia has kicking around on her blog! (She has a whole bunch of incredible posts on eco-friendly crafts! So great!!)

Julia is SUCH a sweet mama with a beautiful family and some truly great ideas and thoughts! I am so happy to have been able to collaborate with her and look forward to doing so again in the near future!

Check out Goat Notes Blog to read a condensed version of my article, or you can read the full version below!

As I grow older, I am becoming more interested in the way things used to be done. Skills passed down from my Grandmother like canning and jam making have quickly filled my fall weekends. Homemade pies and loaves of bread (smothered with equally delicious homemade lavender honey butter) were a transition into ‘adulthood’ like no other. The joy that was felt after completing my first knitting project (with much help from my mother-in-law) still brings a smile of my face. Such simple yet incredible feats, and a glimpse back in time. I think what I love the most is that these skills are an exercise in patience- they require a chunk of dedicated time and though the effort put in is often great, the results seem to somehow simplify our lives. Living in a world where instant gratification is commonly expected, it’s amazing to be able to slow things down, start from scratch and make meaningful things to share with the people we love.

Over the past several years, I have been very dedicated to making my own natural household cleaning products. There are a variety of reasons: the overwhelming health and environmental impacts, massive cost savings, and noticeable improved indoor air quality, but I think one of the biggest reasons has to be the feeling described above- the gratification of doing it by hand. These recipes call for a few very basic, inexpensive ingredients, the majority of which you will probably already have in your cupboard. The results are a few simple, natural products that will safely and effectively clean your home from top to bottom (and they make great gifts to share with the people you love!).

White Vinegar: normal, everyday vinegar is the superhero of natural cleaning! It’s deodorizing, very inexpensive, an effective grease-cutting agent, and a natural disinfectant. (Did you know many antibacterial products contain a chemical called Triclosan – a pesticide that is a known hormone disrupter and endocrine blocker, and carcinogen in humans? It’s so potent and prevalent that it is often found in nursing mother’s breast milk. Yikes!)

Baking Soda: the same stuff that deodorizes your refrigerator is an amazing scouring agent (think calcium build up in your bathtub…) and a great additive to many natural cleaning recipes!

Castile Soap: this soap is made from vegetable oils and has a TON of uses! From natural cleaning to personal care products- a little goes a long way with this versatile friend. Check out Dr. Bronners Castile Soap- widely available at most natural foods stores. 

Lemon Juice: a great grease cutter that can add a natural scent to your cleaning mix!

Pure Organic Essential Oils: many people dislike the scent of vinegar, or really miss the smell of a ‘clean home’- pure essential oils offer a safer scent additive for natural cleaning products. Though I do want to add that after a dedicated month of using vinegar, I promise you wont even notice the smell any more (and it dissipates very quickly). Artificial fragrances (found in conventional cleaners, air fresheners, room sprays and many personal care products) can cause reactions like headache, dizziness, rashes, migraines, asthma, and in severe cases, anaphylactic attacks and irreversible repertory damage. We as North Americans spend upwards of 90% of our time indoors. Air quality indoors can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air. Fragrances are the most common indoor air pollutant, second only to tobacco smoke.
Note: Essential oils can have natural medicinal properties and can still trigger reactions in some.  Use with caution if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or there are people in your home with allergies or sensitivities.

You will also need spray bottles or containers with a lid to store your homemade products in- widely available at most stores, or simply wash out an old container for reuse.

You can use a spray bottle filled with white vinegar to clean and sanitize pretty much any surface in your home- I use it on absolutely everything- from glass windows, to granite counter tops, to bathroom floors and the toilet bowl. Add a quick splash to the bottom of the dishwasher before you turn it on to help as a rinse aid, boil it in the kettle every couple of months for an amazing descaler, spray it directly onto weeds in the yard and watch them disappear, and 1 cup added to the fabric softener compartment of the washing machine effectively softens all your linens- naturally, cheaply and without artificial fragrance! That being said, it took me a while to get to this point, as I found it hard to transition from having a cleaner for every surface to just using one spray bottle of vinegar for everything (though if you can do it, go for it!). Below are a few of my favorite and trusted recipes that should get most of your surfaces sparkly and clean… naturally!

The BEST (Germ Killing) All Purpose Cleaner

Add two tablespoons of castile soap to an empty spray bottle
Fill bottle 3/4 the way full with warm water
Fill remaining 1/4 of the bottle with vinegar
Optional: 20 or so drops of a pure organic essential oil of your choice
Give the bottle a good shake, and shake well before each use.
Note: it is important to follow the order of these directions, or the vinegar will cause the castile soap to curdle- the solution is still usable if this happens, but just doesn’t look quite as nice with chunks floating in it.

Super Duper Tub Scrub

In a medium sized bowl, add 1 cup of baking soda
Gradually mix in 1/2 a cup of Castile Soap (I use the lavender scented Dr. Bronner’s soap. Lavender has natural antibacterial properties, and smells heavenly! Alternatively, you can use plain soap and add essential oils of your choice- citrus, lime, orange or bergamot are personal favorites- 5 – 20 drops should do the trick!)
The end result will be a thick paste that will store nicely in a container with an airtight lid for up to one year. Use in your bathtub, on tile, in the kitchen sink, or any surface that needs (and can handle) a little bit of abrasion.

Sparkly Clean Window & Glass Cleaner

In a spray bottle, add one cup of vinegar and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
Fill the rest of the bottle with water and give a good shake.
Use old newspaper for a streak-free (and paper towel free) wipe down!

There are a ton of incredible resources and recipes out there for natural cleaners, so have a peek. Try some out, see what you like (and what you don’t like) and go from there!

Good luck and enjoy! xo